Rivera touts bill allowing students to stay in US

Valedictorian returns to S. Fla. after deportation fight

Published On: Mar 09 2012 06:10:18 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 11 2012 09:45:45 AM EDT
MIAMI -

North Miami Senior High School valedictorian Daniela Pelaez is back in South Florida after taking her fight to stop her deportation to the nation's capital. 

Pelaez, 18, was given a reprieve and won't face deportation for another two years, but with the help of U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, she is hoping to make her stay, and those of other children of illegal immigrants, permanent. 

"What Daniela has demonstrated these last few days in Washington is that in America, one individual can make a difference," Rivera said. 

Twenty-five hundred students, faculty members and staff members at North Miami High School protested in support of Pelaez last week. In Washington, senators and U.S. representatives listened to her plea and pledged support. 

"I'm more determined, more than ever, to help millions of kids, because I never want anybody to be in the same position that I am in," Pelaez said. 

Pelaez and her older sister, Dayana Pelaez, have been given two years to obtain legal residency. They were born in Colombia and brought to the U.S. as small children. 

To help the Pelaez sisters and others, Rivera will sponsor the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act. It would let illegal immigrants age 18 years and 6 months and younger who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 to legally remain in the U.S. if they earn a four-year college degree. 

"We are going to keep fighting on her case, particularly from the legality view, and we're going to file the appeal, but we are very hopeful that if this bill passes, she will be included in that bill, so it's very exciting," said attorney Nera Shefer.

"I cannot imagine that anybody in America would be against a cause or a case like Daniela's and others. Individuals who have graduated from high school, have been accepted into a college or a university, they should have a chance to study and to graduate from that college or university and to be productive citizens here in America," Rivera said. 

It is highly unlikely that a freshman congressman can get a bill passed that is a cousin to the Dream Act, which has not passed, either. But, Daniela Pelaez has reignited the debate.